Project Lead: Erica Fischer, College of Engineering, OSU
Duration: 2020 - 2023
Project Description: Previous large-scale fire testing of mass timber buildings has occurred on a single floor of a building. The data collected from these experiments were used to demonstrate the fire performance of cross-laminated timber (CLT) buildings and to change the International Building Code (IBC) prescriptive fire protection design provisions for mass timber buildings. The scope of the tests was limited to compartment fires with varying levels of encapsulation. However, multi-story mass timber buildings are being constructed in the United States and fire science experts understand that fire threats can move beyond compartment fires and into travelling (moving fires) and vertical fire spread. In addition, many buildings are being proposed outside of the scope of the IBC prescriptive fire protection design approach (i.e. open floor plans), thereby requiring the employment of performance-based structural fire engineering. Performance-based structural fire engineering requires quantifying fire demands within the structure and calculating the resistance of the structure throughout the fire to provide safety to the occupants during egress, safety to fire fighters during and after the fire, and to ensure the building will not collapse introducing a threat of fire spread and damage to the surrounding buildings. To date, engineers are employing performance-based structural fire engineering on mass timber buildings; however, engineers are typically forced to make simplifications, be very conservative, and/or frequently use unproven assumptions. These simplifications and assumptions need to be tested experimentally to ensure that engineers are providing adequate levels of safety. Some of these assumptions include exterior wall and façade details that can prevent vertical fire spread, and detailing by engineers that considers the effects of charring during the decay phase of the fire.
The PIs have an opportunity to perform large-scale fire tests on a multi-story mass timber building in Corvallis, OR. Future large-scale fire tests will utilize a portion of the 10-story building being tested as a part of the Natural Hazards Engineering Research Infrastructure (NHERI) Tall Wood project
(http://nheritallwood.mines.edu/). After the seismic testing of the 10-story building, the top four stories will be demolished and not utilized. Therefore, the research team will transport these floors to Corvallis to be re-assembled at the Corvallis Fire Training Center. In this preliminary stage, a multi-disciplinary team will perform computer simulation modeling of the fire tests, fully develop the scope of the tests and create a detailed experimental plan for the large-scale fire tests. The tests will be designed with considerations for the ability to address the following questions. These questions are consistent with future research needs that were identified by the Forest Products Laboratory  and the recent National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Fire Safety in Tall Timber Buildings Workshop.
(1) How does the façade detailing of a mass timber building influence the vertical fire spread behavior?
(2) How can engineers better design mass timber buildings to enhance the safety for firefighters?
(3) How do glulam beam-to-column connections perform in real fires?
(4) What engineering solutions can be implemented within mass timber buildings to account for the behavior of the mass timber during the decay phase of the fire in the case that suppression is not available?
(5) How can engineers better design mass timber buildings to enhance the safety for fire fighters during the firefight and during overhaul/investigation?